The problem of determining intended meaning is a key topic in the study of linguistic processes. This paper attempts to answer the question: how do agents involved in a linguistic controversy determine the intended meaning of a sentence? The main thesis of the paper is that the determination of meaning is driven by agents’ situational interests. The process is analyzed in two phases , and the thesis is respectively declined in two hypotheses. The first is that an agent’s situational interest (...) drives the individual choice of meaning for ambiguous sentences. It is argued in particular that formal semantics, the dictionary, context of use and domain knowledge are not sufficiently powerful to determine a unique meaning. From this it follows that an agent can legitimately choose a meaning given a set of acceptable meanings. This first proposal should impact on the problem of meaning under determination. The second hypothesis is that, in meaning negotiation processes, agents negotiate their own interests, and not directly the meaning. Meaning is then compatibly fixed on the agreement arising from the negotiation of interests. Focusing on cases of disputes concerning ambiguous clauses in employment contracts , I shall illustrate two linguistic controversies provoked by the same clause. The two controversies were resolved by determining two opposite meanings for the same expression. In the two situations, the two meanings were differently determined on the basis of different interests and two different negotiation processes. In this scenario I shall claim that the intended meaning can be regarded as an epiphenomenon of the negotiation of situational interests. This latter proposal should impact on the problem of determining the intended meaning in meaning negotiation processes. (shrink)
In this paper I will analyse the relationship between metaphor and imagination. This issue has been recently studied by cognitive linguists who appreciate its importance, while other semantic perspectives neglect it. I will analyse the thesis which affirms that metaphors are based on cognitive components which are not logical-propositional but imaginative: the “image schemata” are recurrent models of corporeal experiences, centres of knowledge organization which structure – in a non-propositional form – an amount of salient information. This information emerges from (...) the sensorimotor activities such as: manipulation of objects, spatial orientation and focusing perceptive attention on different goals. According to this theory, imagination is the drive of the entire cognitive experience and, through metaphorical projection, it activates and coordinates the schemata from which the very linguistic activity originates. Starting with empirical studies about the cognitive and neurobiological plausibility of image schemata, I will assert the function of imagination as the trait d’union between experience and cognitive use of the metaphor, through the use of sensory and synesthetic metaphors as mediators among perceptive, physical and linguistic dimensions. I hope future research will concentrate on the relationship between synesthesia and image schemata because of their strong connection with human perceptive, cognitive and neural structures. (shrink)
The paper focuses on the embodied view of cognition applied to language. First we discuss what we intend when we say that concepts are “embodied”. Then we briefly explain the notion of simulation, addressing also its neuro-physiological basis. In the main part of the paper we will focus on concepts mediated by language, presenting behavioral and neuro-physiological evidence of the action/perception systems activation during words and sentences comprehension.
Lesion to the primary visual area in the brain abolishes visual awareness. And yet, patients with such lesions can perform forced-choice visual detection or discrimination tasks better than chance. In performing these tasks, however, they claim that they are only guessing, that is they have little confidence that they are correct. This paper considers whether this reported lack of confidence could help us to characterize the apparent lack of visual awareness. In other words, do confidence and awareness always go together? (...) Or are there other consistent relationships between the two such that we could use confidence ratings as measures of visual awareness? We highlight why the approach of using confidence ratings to assess the level of visual awareness is better than the currently dominant approach, which is to use forced-choice performance itself as an index of awareness. But we also discuss potential pitfalls, both technical and conceptual, in interpreting confidence ratings in relation to visual awareness. (shrink)
Daniel C. Dennett claims that the self is nothing more than a fiction of the brain, an abstraction that has been promoted by evolutionary processes as a result of its biological and social beneficence. While concurring with Dennett with regard to simple selves, I argue for the existence of indeterminate and functional selves, and propose that such selves come about as a direct result of our believing in the reality of simple and thus fictional selves. In addition to this I (...) shall contend that Dennett is confused as to the precise nature of the self, and as a consequence ends up fluctuating between two importantly different positions. My overall aim is to ameliorate Dennett’s initial insights and hopefully come up with something more consistent and metaphysically palatable. (shrink)